The holidays are time that many people in the United States look forward to including some with malicious intent. Consumers are spending money during this period and are sometimes a bit more carefree. Unfortunately, this can lead to opportunities for cyber thieves to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. There are however basic precautions consumers can take during this holiday season to ensure to remain in the realm of safety while operating in a digital environment. Several key strategies will be discussed to help with cybersecurity.
The holidays are great time to revisit the strategy utilized for passwords. It’s no secret that Americans tend to reuse the same password for most of their sensitive logins. One excellent strategy to avoid having sensitive data accessed is to create a password bank of 5 to 10 passwords, which are only recorded off-line. These passwords should be a combination of letters or words, numbers, and symbols. They can still represent significant Aspects of a consumer’s life as is often the case, however having 5 to 10 of those will stifle any potential compromise of a password. If a consumer forget what the password is for certain site, they can test the various passwords from their password bank.
Another potential pitfall to avoid during the holiday season is connecting to public Wi-Fi. It is certainly convenient for consumers that many stores and restaurants offer Wi-Fi to customers. Free public Wi-Fi does, however, pose a significant security risk. Cyber thieves can easily access these networks and intercept sensitive consumer information. If it becomes vital to use public WiFi, do not make purchases or login to password protected sites. When using a cell phone, turn off the WiFi function and rely solely on a data plan when in public. For laptops and tablets, the use of a VPN is recommended. These strategies will limit any potential exposure.
Bluetooth technology allows consumers to connect wirelessly to Many different types of devices. Unfortunately, it also leaves consumers sensitive information susceptible to cyber thieves as through a process called bluesnarfing. Bluesnarfing is the theft of data through a Bluetooth connection which cyber thieves access through an enabled device (1). Many consumers will leave Bluetooth on and discoverable when going out into public even though they may no longer be connected to devices. This makes it all too easy for cyber thieves to prey on them. The best approach is to turn off Bluetooth on a cell phone whenever going out into public. The simple step keeps cautious consumers safe.
Even from the safety of home, it’s not difficult to fall victim when shopping online. Cyber thieves often use malware embedded on websites to gain access to an unsuspecting consumer’s computer. The best defense against malware is a two prong approach: have an up to date anti-virus software, and have a malware scanning app to clean a computer after each visit to the internet. It may seem tedious to clean a computer after each visit to the internet, however the times these precautions aren’t taken are the vulnerable point’s cyber thieves wait for.
While the holidays represent a joyous time for many, it’s also a time when extra caution should be taken in order to avoid falling prey to cyber thieves. With some basic knowledge and a bit of initiative, consumers can keep sensitive data safe during this period. Simple acts such as turning off WiFi and Bluetooth when out and creating a password bank can keep a great time of year form turning into a nightmare. These combined with having up to date protection for computers are great practices any time of year, but especially during the holidays when cyber thieves are more active.
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